Finding the Problem

When my daughter heard who was on the team, she had no interest in being involved. They were the geeky boys who lived in a different social world than her's. Oh well...

But, as we were driving in the car one day, I asked her what might be a problem that the team could solve that would make a difference for students at her high school.

"Oh," she replied, "that's easy. We don't know what is going on at school. Develop a mobile app for that."

"What do you mean?" I replied incredulously. "Don't you get the daily email of all of the activities at your school? Don't you hear the morning announcements in your first period?"

"Yea," she said, "I get them." And then she continued. "But we can't hear the announcements very well and as for the email, don't you also get it? How often do you read it?"

I admitted that I got that email but never read it. She asked why. I told her that I didn't read it because it was long and most of the information wasn't relevant to me.

"Exactly, that's why we don't read it either", she responded. "Solve that problem. Find a way that students can get the information that they need, when they need it. If they are interested in the Spanish Club, don't tell them about events in the Chinese Club."

And then she quickly twisted her body around and grabbed a notebook from her backpack in the back seat. By the time we reached our destination, she had sketched out the screen designs for the mobile app, one that allowed students to set filters so that they only saw announcements that were relevant to them.

When I floated this idea to the students the following week, they lit up and said, yes, that was a problem worth solving. They then jumped up to the chalkboard and started sketching out the screens for this mobile app that were almost identical to the ones that my daughter had done.

As digital natives, they shared a common understanding of how to solve that problem with this new, ubiquitous technology.

So now we had the problem to solve. But the team didn't know how to solve it. The students didn't know how to code. The developer had never made a mobile app. But that didn't stop them. They launched their first Sprint, with a commitment to release a beta version by the time school started in the fall.

The team committed to meet once a week throughout the summer to learn together and deliver a solution.

And then, as the next term was beginning, they delivered it.

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